Problems with the Neighbors' Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • 2nd grade daughter's aggressive friend

    (21 replies)

    There is a classmate / neighborhood kid about the same age as my daughter (2nd grader). When they are together, this boy is "mean" to her. At least, I perceive it as mean, aggressive, and not appropriate. He shows up at our front door to play with her sometimes. I like the idea of having neighborhood kids play, and we don't have many kids within an easy walking distance. I turned around to tend to other stuff while they were playing outside. I heard commotion and saw my daughter running away from him who was trying to shoot her with a toy bow and arrow. We ran into him at a pool and he started shooting water at her. The boy was with a sitter who was not nearby at the time to supervise the child. At both times, I heard my daughter clearly and firmly tell him to stop. I think he thinks it's funny. When I heard the commotion, I ran over and told him sternly that it was not appropriate. I asked my daughter if this boy does similar things at school, and she said "sometimes he gets a little crazy". I am not a boy. I do not have boys. I do not have brothers. I have mild tempered kids who like to paint, sew, sing, cook, garden, decorate her fairy garden, and dance. So, I am a bit stumped on how to react to kids whose first reaction is "throw stuff around, shoot/throw stuff at other kids, decorations and flowers immediately become target practices." I hung pretty bows and ornaments on a tree on our front lawn, and I did not anticipate that it would become such an attractive target for this boy to jump and grab, thereby breaking some branches. I have not spoken to the parents but I'm not sure whether it's even worth bringing it up to the parents or if I do, how I should bring it up. This boy has 2 other brothers and when I have seen the siblings together, I can definitely see that they play rough and the 3 boys fight pretty intensely. I would love to hear from the perspective of parents of boys. I am kind of nervous about this boy coming over to play, because of his big energy.

    Am I overreacting? Any advice?

    Just say no to playdates, unless your daughter wants to play, in which case supervise them.  Ask her.

    My boy gets similarly picked on by other girls and boys. I think if you stopped focusing on his gender you might get better advice or be able to come up with a solution for yourself. Because please. This is not a boy thing. It’s how parents raise their kids and what other influences the kid could be exposed to thing. In these situations I’ve talked to the parents, teachers, and worked with my kid to build resiliency, in addition to finding ways to keep them apart. 

    I have a 5 year old boy. Sometimes he (like most other kids I've encountered, including my 11-year old daughter) needs to be reminded that when someone asks him to stop "playing" with them in a way that isn't fun for them too he needs to respect their feelings and stop.  Same for being respectful of other people's property.  It's probably going to take a lot of practice/reminders before he nails it, but hopefully he will eventually internalize these ideas.  

    The parents can't do anything about it if they don't know what's going on, so my advice would be to at least try to have a conversation with them.  I am always grateful when people let me know about my children misbehaving so that I can address it with the kids.  Most people just say I wanted let you know that ... 

    We've also encountered kids that are out of control, some to the point that I don't want to have them over.  I agree with the other poster that if you daughter doesn't want to play with this kid you can just tell him no ( I would tell him why too -- e.g. she would like to play with you, but last time you did x, y, z which made her uncomfortable/unhappy, I know you can do better if you try hard and when you are ready to change that behavior maybe she would like to play, but she's not going to play with you if you don't listen to what she is telling you and respect her feelings, so let's take a break until you straighten that out).  If she does want to play then I would offer a playdate in a nearby park instead of inside and give him ground rules before the playdate. That way they can run around and burn off some energy and you won't have to worry about them messing up your place.  

    Hi. I'm the parent of a 2nd grade boy who could be described as energetic. Definitely some of the descriptors you used for your neighbor sound familiar. He's not quite as destructive as you describe, but he will turn any pointy toy (fairy wand, etc.) into a weapon. I didn't teach him to do this, and I try to discourage it if the other children in the room aren't playing this kind of game. And yet. Every stick is a weapon, and every game is a super hero battle. I work on it, I promise I do.

    I think it's important to keep in mind that there are a lot of kinds of kids in the world. Some of them are really active and take a long time to learn impulse control. It's okay for your child to come to the conclusion that she doesn't actually like playing with this boy, or for you to decide that you'd prefer not to have his energy in your house. It seems like for this boy and his brothers, the physical way they play seems to work for them, and maybe their parents feel like it's in accordance with their values. It's possible to place boundaries for your house and family without placing judgments about other kids' behavior.

    If it involves destroying your property, or if your daughter is afraid to go outside, then checking in with the parents seems like a good idea. I think it's most helpful to approach the other parents as peers who you want to work with to solve the problem. They might not think his behavior is a big deal, but they might listen to reasonable requests. I think asking him not to touch your decorations and also stopping a game if your daughter says no or if it is not fun for her are two reasonable requests. You can't really control how he acts at school or whether he roughhouses with his brothers, but I'd say you have a say how he treats your yard and family.

    This isn't a boy thing - it's a kid thing.  It might be helpful to check those ideas that boys throw stuff around, shoot/throw stuff at other kids, decorations and flowers immediately become target practices and that girls like to paint, sew, sing, cook, garden, decorate fairy gardens, and dance.  

    Ask your daughter how she's feeling about her interactions with this child and if she'd like to continue them. And also feel free to just say no if you don't want this child to interact with yours.

    My boy has always been gentle and fairly quiet, so it isn't completely a gender thing.  Regardless of gender, your daughter is saying "no" in order to protect herself, and that should be enough.  Tell him kindly but firmly that he'll have to go home if he can't respect other people.  Those are the rules of your house.  If there's no immediate change, then follow through and politely show him the door, assuring him his is welcome back when he can make better choices including being gentle with your daughter's toys, others' feelings, and your home (right down to the lawn ornaments).  I would definitely be polite because he may not be getting good directions at home.  It does take a village and you may be the one to start teaching him that there are boundaries and rules for healthy friendships. 

    I have two rambunctious boys, one who is seven. Thank you for recognizing that your perspective might be skewed. The behavior you describe is normal - it’s not “mean” or “inappropriate.” The only problem is if the play isn’t consensual. The boy should be learning not to engage in this behavior with someone who doesn’t think it’s fun. The problem is that many children, especially the mild mannered ones, do not clearly communicate their preferences. I know you say that your child clearly communicated that she didn’t want to play, but I’ve witnessed this happen to my son so many times that my first instinct is to be doubtful. So often the children are laughing and playing and then one suddenly changes her mind and complains to an adult without saying anything to my son. My son is genuinely confused, because he thought they were having fun. If it is being clearly communicated to this boy that your daughter is not enjoying this kind of play and he persists, then that indicates that he has some impulse control issues that probably need to be addressed.

    I have a mild-mannered boy (and girl) and don't invite over friends that I know will trash the house. If there is a gathering of such gregariousness, we know to head to a park where they can be who they want to be and the tribe of kids will police themselves. Parents of 'wild boys' know they have them and some will perhaps notice that their kid will or won't get invited to things that other kids are doing. I've seen some parents of 'wild boys' connect w/ other parents of similar kids, finding ways to get them together, and appreciate their boys can be themselves in some 'safe' environment free of criticism or judgement.

    My advice to you: AVOID parenting another family's child (unless they have asked you to) and focus on raising girls that know how to advocate for themselves in various environments. I wonder if an analogy would be a visiting parent to observe your daughter and sarcastically say "well, you're quite the delicate introvert, aren't you? But it's OK, not everyone needs to athletic." If a parent of a wild-child of any gender were to ask me for advice based on what i've observed about the various kids in our community (now that mine are in Middle School) I would say that if 'like-ability' is important for your child to have as they get older, they should find ways to direct their child's energy into athletics (or organized outdoor pursuits) where a great coach can be an amazing force to help them channel active-ness into goals and success. 

    It sounds like the kids' play style are not a great fit so maybe they should not be playing together, or at least not without supervision.  Some boys are great at playing with girls and some boys have a very "active" type of play and very energetic which does not work for a shy or quiet kid -- those boys are not mean and are not doing anything bad on purpose they just get into the game in a way that often seems too much for others.  I have an elementary aged son that is similar to that boy (minus the shooting pretend arrows, though he does sword fights instead).  He likes to play loud and rough games and my daughter is basically not allowed to play those games with him since she always gets hurt and ends up in tears and the rule in our house is if you willingly agreed to play a game that was rough and which had a high chance of you getting hurt, you are not allowed to complain if you ended up getting hurt.  I taught my son that the games themselves are not bad but that he needs to think twice about who he can play those games with and be selective about the group of boys he invites over for playdates if he intends to play that game and to only invite kids that like these type of games or know in advance he won't be allowed to play them.  I think it is up to your daughter to tell the neighbor boy that she does not like those type of games and then it is up to him to either play with someone else or play different games with her. 

    Instead of asking “Is this normal boy behavior?” you might want to ask “Does my daughter enjoy playing with this child?” Even if the answer to the former is yes, if the answer to the latter is no, then don’t play together.

    HI, parent of 2 boys here and I'm constantly shocked by how they play and how different they are from me at that age.  That said, I think it's really great for kid of different play styles to figure out how to be together, especially neighbors, and my guess is that this kids' mom is happy to get a break!  This type of play is common among the boys I see, however what all kids need to learn is how to both respect boundaries and state their own boundaries, and that's where this little guy could use help.  Your daughter needs an adult to help her when she states a boundary and he crosses it.  Step in and re-direct their play and be that boundary for her until he gets it.  If he doesn't adapt, he goes home.  My kid will often start to act more aggressively/over the top when he feels like he isn't able to connect with a playmate.  What has been helpful for my boys in connecting wiht other kids is to help them find things they like to do together.  Say they both like legos, or biking, or pretending to be tigers, or dancing to music, or putting on plays--help them structure their play to something both enjoy. my guess is that will help this kid redirect his energy into constructive play and once they've established a 'way' they both like to play they can move on from there.  If you know the parents, involve them in this conversation, my guess is that they also may be struggling with his respect of limits.  If you don't know them/they have different parenting philosophies, it's not your job to teach this kid to respect boundaries, but everyone benefits, so I recommend if you have the capacity to be that stand in parent for him. 

    It just might not be a good fit with the neighborhood boy. I don't think you should bring it up with his parents, unless they're asking for play dates and you decline, because there's nothing wrong with him either.

    I am a girl, grew up with only sisters, we were the docile kind, and from what I gather quiet and easy to raise.

    I have a son, imagine the cartoon Tazmanian devil twirling around, that's kind of like my son. I'm still getting used to it, but I have had many folks (other Moms with boys, preschool teachers, nannies, pediatrician) confirm for me that this is within the range of normal. "Big energy" is a good way to describe it, some boys are full of life and raw energy and do everything kind of big and uncontrolled. But because I know this, I monitor him more carefully around girly girls. He once put an older girl in a choke hold by accident due to vigorous hugging from behind. He's also chased after girls and hit them because he wanted to play with them but didn't know how, and hitting them got him their attention, so he kept up the antics. One last funny boy story - just yesterday, he and my partner were sharing a very sweet moment by our Christmas tree, and out of nowhere my son whacked a ball ornament off the tree. Just because it's there, and it was too tempting. I can't imagine doing that myself, ever, but to him that was just the thing to do...

    One thing that works for me with my son is that when his friends don't look like they're enjoying the rough play, I tell him if he keeps it up we're leaving. In other words, saying "stop" to the neighborhood boy requires him to do something he might not be able to right away because he's too wrapped up in play. But saying "stop it or else I'm going to leave" is something your daughter can control, and if he wants to keep playing with her, he might stop. After a while, he will get it.

    Ps. And no, not all boys run around throwing things. Some play very quietly and can be very subdued. I’m not making a value statement as to which type of play is better. It’s just that they are different. So that’s why it’s more important to ask whether your daughter enjoys this boy’s company than whether this rough play is “normal”. If she doesn’t like playing with this boy, it doesn’t mean she won’t play with any boys. 

    Sounds like pretty normal 2nd grade boy stuff to me.

    I think this is a great teachable moment.

    First off, I have two boys and one girl. I feel your pain; and I often feel divided between raising a girl vs boys. My boys are on the low end of the rough housing factor...but there are times when I am not able to deal with the physicality and noise levels involved. The truth is, boys tend to have more testosterone and get a surge around the second grade. They need to somehow play. It’s likely they aren’t playing hard enough, running around outside, or this boy needs a little more guidance on how to disperse his energy. The opportunity for you might be to have a conversation with your daughter about the behavior she sees and to give her some language on how to deal with him, “I will not play with you when you are rough” (which she did when you heard her tell him to stop - perhaps reinforce that was a good choice and let her know the “no” means just that. These small conversions can be so empowering for children, so I’ve learned). Instead of just writing off this boy, if you have the energy (and choose wisely), allow for another day of play, see how it goes (it will probably be the same) and coach her through areas she needs help on. With the underlying message of: “I show people how I want to be treated.” Personally, I’ve come to love (after a period of initial hate) these times because when they’re not at school, I can’t coach my kids (that sounds really helicopter-y), but the more practice the better...with guidance. 

    I suggest that you try having the boy over at least once more. Make some rules, like no weapons, no fighting. What ever you think may be a problem. Set a time limit. And watch them closely. Or set them up with some quiet activity like a game or coloring. Make rules. Limit the time. Good luck. 

    It is so nice that you are second guessing your gut response to these behaviors. I am a woman, but had only male siblings and male children. Maybe because of this,  I love the rough housing, physical contact and sheer energy of young boys. Some boys (and girls) are filled with so much enthusiasm it comes out physically. That said, they should not destroy your property or make others (your daughter) feel unsafe. Let them know that you worked hard to put up the decorations, and ask them to leave them be. Remind them that your daughter said no, and does not want to play that roughly. Be sincere, kind and offer an alternative activity. It may be that your daughter and this boy just like different forms of play. I think it’s okay for kids to know and understand that. 

    Hello! I don't think you're overreacting, and I'd love to *try* to give advice. I have a six-year-old boy, and he is active and sometimes his preferred play is odd to me. My kid loves to wrestle and chase and call names and such, and he doesn't see calling each other names as mean, but just funny and likes when it happens back-and-forth with another kid. I think it is liking a style of play rather than boy vs. girl -- I've seen boys who are intimidated or dislike that kind of play, and last weekend my kid was at a birthday party where a girl his age and him started wrestling and running riding toys into each other, and pulling at each other and pushing each other over and screaming, and they both were having a super fun time, whereas I was like, are they going to injure each other? So I think it is just a major difference in play style, and just as you and your daughter seem confused by his style and think it is mean, he is probably just as confused about her style and why you don't want him to play, especially if his brothers play that way too and they are his primary playmates. If he and your daughter want to play with each other and have playdates, I have a few ideas:

    1. Explain to your daughter that he isn't trying to hurt her or be mean, that's just how he's trying to play with her. (First, make sure this is true by observing -- does it look like bullying or trying to hurt, or just playing? Might be hard to tell the difference if you're not used to it...)

    2. Explain to the boy that your daughter doesn't like rough play / fighting play and feels attacked by it. Be aware that this might make him feel bad, like his kind of play is "wrong" and he might be sensitive about it. Try asking him what else he likes to play. (For example, my son also likes art and building things with blocks and playing hiding/finding games like scavenger hunts and easter egg hunts). Attempt to find common ground. 

    3. If the boy comes into your yard/house for a playdate, expect that you may need to supervise pretty much the whole time. He won't be familiar with the boundaries and rules of your home, which you and your kids probably take for granted as obvious. For example, it might be obvious to you not to try to hang on the curtains/drapes, but that might not be obvious to him if he has blinds/shades at his home and doesn't know the rod would pull out of the wall. This might be an extreme example, but you get the idea. Be ready to let him know in advance that there are some rules at your home that might be different, and you'll try hard to let him know about those rules. 

    4. It is entirely reasonable not to be comfortable with an active kid (or any kid) you don't know well coming into your home to play partially unsupervised. You can always keep them outside or invite his parent to bring him over for supervised playdate & coffee/tea with you. 

    5. It's one thing to be active and another to be destructive. Don't be afraid to tell the boy to be gentle with the plants, not touch the breakables, etc. 

    6. I think it's quite reasonable to talk to the parents. You can ask their advice. Let them know your daughter plays calmly/quietly and you're not used to a more active kid but want to facilitate a healthy play relationship. You'll get a sense of whether the kid is just active, or out of control. 

    Good luck! Hope this helps!

    There are lots of boys (and some girls) with big energy like that. I wouldn’t say it’s inappropriate. He doesn’t sound like a good match for your quiet child/household though.

    If your daughter wants to play with him, I’d suggest going to the playground & supervising. Intervene if there’s actual danger. If your daughter asks you for help because she doesn’t like the physical way he plays, teach her how to stand up for herself, move away from him, or end the play date.  

    I wish I had advice, but I think all I have is a reflection on my own experiences. As the mother of a boy and a girl, I do find mine to be wired differently. My son is big-energy-wild at age 4, but also very sweet, thoughtful, caring, flexible and remarkably reasonable.  I did notice early on that when he and I were around parents of only girls (especially in close quarters), they often seemed taken aback by his energy - for example, in the midst of his happy excited dance, he will knock into someone or something; he likes to jump on me when I'm sitting on the floor and climb on me like a jungle gym. He is also sensitive, and will cry or growl when he feels slighted, hurt, or frustrated. Although I'm happy to cater to his big motor needs within our family, I do struggle with how to help him "code switch" in other social situations. Sometimes it has made me feel like a bad parent. I envy my parent friends who say their boys only have girl friends, but my son gravitates toward the big, gross motor play that mostly only other boys seem to like. I have pretty high standards for kindness and he can talk quite eloquently, and reflect on and connect his experiences; he is very affectionate, and he loves cuddles, and he is very social and friendly, so it's not like he doesn't have a ton going for him, and I love him dearly as he is. But since my daughter has turned one, it has become increasingly clear that they are just different. She already has opinions about clothes which he still doesn't particularly express. She will patiently hand me blocks to stack a tower higher whereas he was years older than she is now before he transitioned to building instead of toppling.

    All that said, I don't subscribe to the "boys will be boys" philosophy - or I think comes from some kind of true experience, but it doesn't mean that we have to leave it unchecked and untrained. But just know that for that boy's parents, it is almost certainly so much more effort to check it than it is likely to be for you with your daughter - they likely would need to be near-constantly on him in order to influence the direction of the play. And I've noticed that some parents give up to some extent, and pick their battles with frugality because they just don't have it in them - especially if he is the third of three boys.

    I think in the end you need to support your daughter and do what feels most comfortable to you and her. Maybe that means cutting off the playdates. Maybe it means supervising closely. Maybe it means getting the other parents involved to set expectations. Maybe it means your daughter practicing shouting no as loudly as she can at him (when I taught girl's self-defense years and years ago, that was one of our first lessons). If you do continue to let them play, I think you should feel totally within your rights to set limits and boundaries (e.g., they can't break the tree branches, they can't play guns in your yard), and be ready to enforce consequences if they are broken (e.g., playdate is over, time out, whatever). I would hope that if you approached the other parents with compassion and explained that you don't have experience with boys, and asked for their support and tips on what to do, they would support you back, and maybe they would pay a little extra attention to this child to try to work with him on it a bit more. However you proceed, good luck!

    It sounds to me like he would like to play with your daughter, but doesn't know how to engage with her. If he has older brothers and there is a lot of rough housing, to him inviting someone in play is being physical with them. If your daughter wants to play with him, the next time he comes over, perhaps you could suggest they play something your daughter likes to do. I would help them begin the game before walking away to make sure they are getting along.

  • TP'ing a house: why? What to do?

    (6 replies)

    Hi all, parents of a much older kid here (who grew up in Berkeley with the help of BPN parents!). We've recently experienced something pretty unusual, and aside from being just plain curious about it ("who does that?!"), wonder if anything "official" can be done. 

    Woke up one morning to a front yard that had been completely toilet papered (??!). Yes, we do both remember doing this ourselves, some 3-4 decades ago!  Back in "junior high" ( for those of you who don't remember, public school used to have grades 7-8-9 as jr. high, 10-11-12 as HS).   All of which to say, this seems like both an old-fashioned "thing", and a very young thing to do. 

    So what motivates someone to do this?  Aiming for a middle-schooler's address and missed?  (This wasn't Halloween, when we did it so many years ago). Pure meanness?  Disagreement with our political bumper sticker?  The same thing that motivates dog-walkers to leave their dogs' sh*t in other people's cans?  Other?

    OK so we're just plain curious to know that. Aside from understanding why, we're also curious about a more general "what can be done" question. This may not even be an infraction, of course, but now that we have security cameras installed, we're curious: when other people do trespass and commit an infraction (stealing packages?  Stealing other items?), can folks take their security film in to the police dept., and would anything be done?

    Again, we're rather more curious than motivated to do anything about the TP, but would in general like to know about infractions caught on security camera tape. 


    We did this a lot around the ages of 12-13. As I recall it was usually done to the house of a boy we had a crush on! The other scenario would be to "get back" at someone who was mean or pulled another sort of prank on us. I think you are over thinking it?  Unless it is happening with frequency?

    You say you both remember doing it long ago. Why did you do it then? It is probably the same reasons kids do it now.

    I went TPing when I was in high school. We did a favorite teacher's house, a friend's house, and a random house with good trees. We brought along our foreign exchange students so they could get a taste of authentic America. So, yeah, basically because we were stupid kids. I know it is a pain to clean up (because we had to help) but it seems unkind/unfair for you to go to the police over something sort of minor that you yourself have done.

    If you are in Berkeley, I wouldn't hold out any hope the police will care at all. Someone tried to steal our car and abandoned it (it was a stick) and the police couldn't be bothered to come and take the visible fingerprints off the car. Nor did they care any of the eight other times our car was broken into. And only once did they care about our house being broken into. So TPing, even with video evidence? Probably not.

    I only remember tp'ing a house when it was someone we liked. If your house gets tp'd it only means that you rate high enough on the social strata to merit the attention. Egging a house is what kids do when it's mean spirited. 

    You are overthinking this. To answer your question.... why did you TP? kids are kids. 

    There are times when TPing can be an honor, such as after helping to win a sporting event, getting a promotion, etc.  When we were ages 12-18, we sometimes did  it to houses where mean kids lived yet strangely also if we had a crush on someone.  If you have a hunky/beautiful pre-teen or teen kid, it could be the latter!  Otherwise, I wouldn't overthink it unless more starts happening.  Just in case, be sure to be a very good neighbor...a good idea anyway.  

    Be happy your house wasn't egged. Literally HOURS of cleanup and some of it is still stuck to the house TWO YEARS later. I think it was my son's girlfriend and/or some of her friends - it was not a good breakup 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Setting boundaries with neighbor kids

June 2014

I live across the street from an apartment complex that has two families of 3 kids each, ages 5 to 11. I have a very extroverted 3 year old daughter who adores these kids and wants to play with them all the time when they are home from school. These kids are generally pretty sweet (although the younger ones get a little pushy), and they really like to play with our toys and act as older siblings to my daughter. Recently I started giving them a dollar or two to occupy my daughter while I cook dinner or clean up a bit which has been an enormous help after a long day of being out/ running errands. They come from cultures where inter-age play is normal, which is fantastic... But there is a flip side to all this.

They are RELENTLESS when they want to play-- they will come over and just walk in the door if I have it open (even when I shut the security gate, they shout my name from outside) They want me to fetch art supplies, fix toys, settle arguments, give them snacks... It's just a bit too much when I'm tired and want some peace at the end of a long day. They will plop themselves down in our patio chairs outside, acting bored and wanting me to think of something for them all to do. Where are their mothers? They both have ''health issues'', and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt on that, but I just don't see them outside that much. In addition, the kids are not that careful with our things. I can't count how many balls have been popped or lost, broken toys, etc. Nothing very expensive, but I'm on a budget!

So how do I navigate this situation? Once school is out, I'm dreading what our days are going to be like. And again, sometimes I can get everyone to play outside as I watch and relax, so I do get something out of our arrangement. Plus, these kids seem to adore me; they ask me about every aspect of my life, from make-up to education, which is so sweet and flattering. But I'm not an endless fountain of fun and toys, right? I also worry I am carrying some baggage-- my parents were very stand-offish when it came to my childhood friends, and I always wanted to have the big house full of love and neighborliness. Maybe I need to rethink that. How can I set appropriate boundaries?
Neighborhood mom

You are allowing these kids to become rude, insensitive and poorly socialized. Their parents ought to be in control but are apparently missing in action. You must tell the kids exactly when they may visit- what time to what time- and send them away if they show up at the wrong time. I'd take them back to their home if necessary. Help them become polite and mature!

I think the summer is a perfect time to set up some ''House Rules.'' Make it an event - sit them down with popsicles or something to kick off summer and have a big colorful poster with all the rules written out so that you are comfortable in your own home or yard with your family when you need time without the entire neighborhood descending on you. Make sure they can be seen when the kids come over by hanging on a fence or wall or something. This way you have something to fall back on. Kids will push and push the boundaries, but if the rules are there, plain and simple, it's harder to argue, and easier for you to say no without negotiating every single time something comes up. Once they know the rules and consequences for breaking them, I think you'll find that they will respect the parameters. Good luck!

Hopefully there is a way to have that house full of love and neighborliness, but also have your house to yourself sometimes. I wonder if you could create a simple signal for times when you don't want to have anyone over? Let the kids know, ''Sometimes we need some quiet time as a family. Whenever this sign is on the door, it means this is not a good time for people to visit us. If you see this sign, it means 'Come back tomorrow.''' (You might have some negotiation issues around this with your child... at least if she's anything like my little extrovert who wants to go over to the neighbor kids' houses every day!)

I also recommend getting to know their parents a little more. It can be awkward but maybe you could make cookies and ask the kids one day ''Could you help me take these over to your mom?'' and try to visit a little. Or ask the kids to help you invite their parent over to have tea or lemonade some evening. Anon

This is quite a pickle. I can completely imagine what you're going through. I would sit down with the kids and talk to them about it (leave the absentee ''moms'' out of it). Then come up with some sort of signal that would let them know when your house is ''open'' for guests (perhaps a sign or flag that can be hung out front). If the kids see that the sign is not out (or if it IS out, depending on how you set the whole thing up) then they know that you are not welcoming visitors right now- because that's what they are: visitors. They need to learn some boundaries and you appear to be the only parent around (sadly) to teach this. Sad for These Kids

Allowing my kids to play at some neighbors' homes but not others

March 2014

Our kids are now 7&9 and the flavor of the neighbor has changed and now there is a small posse of like-aged kids living within a few houses (yeah!). One family, 1y neighbors, we like and have had them watch our kids and vice versa. Other families we're neutral about, kids play together fine. One family has been here 5y and the mom used to hit the child regularly such that we banned our kids from playing in their home, not wanting them to witness the interaction again nor be subjected to it. Now as the posse has grown, and the new family moved in, the kids are more in/out of homes. My kids feel awkward when the other kids go into the 5y family home but they are not allowed, yet they are allowed in the 1y family home. What words do I give them to explain the reasons? What words to I offer if any of the adults ask? It's not our place to tell the 1y family about the beatings which seem to have stopped (hoping), and yet I still don't want my kids in that house. Do we and the kids simply say, 'we're not comfortable with their parenting style' and hope that ends the conversation?
liking the posse, not parents I have a 5 yo going on 6 with neighbors she could play with, but I don't let her. I feel she has enough with her classmates and I don't want trouble with the neighbors because our kids don't get along or something.

I don't think I would want to say anything about the beatings (other than reporting them) but would make it clear to my children that the parenting style you've witnessed at the neighbor's house isn't safe for them. If asked, they should say their mom wants them home now because they can't stay out too late, have homework to get done, are working on a project with dad, uncle, etc. Good luck! my two cents

Now that things seem OK and your kids are older, you might try letting them go over to this neighbor's house. They are at an age where they will tell you if something that makes them uncomfortable happens. It's not the same as sending them over there when they were 3.

I think you are being too judgmental and controlling, to be blunt. Of course, hitting a little kid is not okay and it should make you uncomfortable. But, how do you know this is a regular occurence? You used the word ''beating.'' Is that an exaggeration? I think you are being too overprotective of your children. They will not be harmed at the neighbor's house, but they may feel weird about having to explain to other adults about their judgmental mom. There are plenty of parenting styles I don't agree with, but to forbid my children to go their friend's homes because of it just makes an uncomfortable situation very, very awkward. As long as there are no guns or drugs, then I think your children will get more benefit than harm from going to the neighbor's house. Enjoy your ''posse'' and your neighborhood. Neighborly mom

If your observations of the 5y family are at all like the ones I've observed over the years at one of my neighbors' homes, I doubt that you are exaggerating or just ''disagreeing with parenting styles, and in fact I'm sure you're not the only neighbor who observed the situation, so it's not like this is necessarily a ''secret''.

Your kids certainly know why they are not allowed in that house, and have probably already told the 1y neighbor kids, because kids ask questions like this, and they usually answer without the filters that adults put up.

So I don't think you should change your rule of not letting your kids go in their house. Your kids are very likely still uncomfortable going into that house and happy enough to be able to just say ''oh, our parents don't want us to go into your house'' and not have to try to make any decisions or explain anything.

If the 1y parents ask you directly about why, you can just explain that you had observed things going on in the house in the past that made you and your kids uncomfortable, and you decided to draw a boundary for them. If they press you for details, then you can explain the details.

I'm still friends with my neighborhood pal who was close when we were 5,6,7,8  but then drifted away as we grew older. Years later when we were both grown, with kids of our own, my friend told me why she stopped coming over to play. Her mom forbade her from coming to my house because she disapproved of my parents' divorce. That was pretty devastating.  I didn't do anything wrong but her mom was mad at my parents so I didn't get to have my friend over.  Have some heart and don't take it out on the kids.  GO

Neighbor exploiting us for childcare

Oct 2011

We have neighbor that is under financial and personal strain. Her husband is not around (we don't know the details; it's possible he has to work out of the area), she is pregnant and she has a 4 year old daughter that seems very needy and apparently has health issues (small for her age; sunken, dark eyes; very bad skin) She seems to spend most of her time at the upstairs window looking out in a very Gothic way. She has a fair amount of energy and I don't think this crosses into CPS territory. We share a back area in our condo complex that our three year old daughter likes to play in. Whenever we go out with our daughter to play, the neighbor opens her back door and basically chucks her daughter out without a word. She then stays about 3 feet inside with her phone to her ear watching us. She's kind of formally friendly-ish, but she's never invited our daughter over for birthday parties (the reverse is not true). We feel very exploited by the fact that we are continually, passively pressed into taking care of her daughter. When we indicate she should get involved, she steps outside and stands closer, but still doesn't really DO anything. She seems embarrassed and mortified by her daughter's completely normal (non-hostile, non-aggressive) 4 year old behavior. I hate to say it, but she strikes us as someone that would view a lawsuit as a an easy way out of her current situation. This adds a layer of nervousness to the whole enterprise. Her daughter and ours are close friends and we really loathe the idea of telling our daughter to stay away from her and because of the close proximity of the shared space, it would require doing it over and over again. FYI: This dynamic predates her pregnancy. How should we handle this? Neighbor

I really don't understand why you feel exploited. If the girls play together, they both get a friend. It is no extra work for you and her mother is near should anything come up. It looks to me like both girls are getting something out of the friendship. Maybe your daughter doesn't really ''need'' this neighbor as a friend, but I am guessing that it is really very special for the neighbor girl. I understand that you are uncomfortable with the situation. But I think talking about exploitation and lawsuits is a bit extreme. If you could find some compassion in your heart for this little girl, you could probably make her world a whole lot happier. Welcome her with a bright smile! Provide a healthy snack! Maybe even invite her to a sleepover. Clearly there is a whole lot of stress in her home and she could use a bit of playtime with a friend. Give yourself a pat on the back for being generous and think positive! anon

Tricky situation--I know I would get annoyed by this unbalance as well. I don't think you can do anything to change the mother's behavior though. Are there things you can do to shift your own focus/thoughts about the situation? For example, consider whether you are really doing so much more ''parenting work'' when the other girl is around. It sounds like you would be out there with your daughter anyway, right, so does it substantially add to your ''parenting work'' burden that the other girl is also there? Maybe not, maybe so. I would also try to focus on the good things this friendship gives your daughter, and also maybe the good things your interaction might be doing for this girl, who seems to not have many advantages and who doesn't have any control/fault in this situation. Finally, on the days when you think you don't have the patience or would find the situation too aggravating, take your daughter on a bike ride or to another park or on some other outing, to avoid the whole situation. --

I have to admit I'm not entirely sure what you are complaining about. It sounds like your daughter enjoys playing with the little girl. It also sounds like this little girl is not ill-behaved, although it's unfortunate that she may not be totally healthy. If your children get along why not let them play and be happy she has someone close by to hang out with. If the little girl was a problem I would understand discouraging it but I think its easier to watch two kids playing than one in many ways. Leslie

If you feel uncomfortable having your neighbor\'s daughter join you in the common area of your condo, then play with your daughter inside or at the park. Or don't stay out in the common area a long time. When I was a kid if my mom saw kids playing in the street she would send me out to go play with them. She didn't introduce me to them or supervise me while I played. Your neighbor may be old- school in that way (is she from another country?) I don't see your neighbor as exploiting you for childcare since she is not bringing the child to your home or even requiring you to stay and supervise; she is just sending her child out to play. There is no explicit or implicit obligation that you have to entertain her child. Just let the kids play if they are friends and they enjoy it. You were also concerned that she does not invite you to birthday parties. Are you sure she throws birthday parties? Didn't you say she is under financial strain? Please don't pathologize your neighbor based on her financial status or social skills. Everything you said about her you have characterized in a negative light, which may just be your perspective. Could it be you are projecting your negativity on to her? Just keep the interactions in the common area short, but friendly and polite, if they bother you. daughter of old-school mom

I was just noticing a kind of inflammatory tone to your post. The words ''exploit'' ''CPS'' (why even mention that?) ''lawsuit'' ''loathe'' ''gothic'' ''chucks'' her daughter out. I mean, maybe she's having a hard time and is depressed. Maybe she needs a friend. Have you ever asked HER over for tea or to take a walk together or something? Asked her how she is? Or what about proactively asking HER if she'd watch the two girls in the yard for half an hour while you go pick up some milk or take a bath or whatever?

I think you should make some effort to let her know you're open to friendship, if you are. And certainly don't tell your daughter not to play with hers. That would cause more problems, especially since you don't find any problem with the little girl. Maybe lighten up and take the lead? anon

Hmm. Tricky situation. 1 - Not sure it will help, but maybe try to become better friends with teh mom? Invite her to dinner, out for a walk, etc? 2 - If you really are worried about a lawsuit, get a big umbrella insurance policy. Very clear price for protection. 3 - If you want it, ask to do clear exchange. She might not be feeling well if she's pregnant, but you could ask... can you watch the kids for x time and I'll watch next time. Good luck. anon

I was surprised by the number of people who responded that they couldn't understand why the situation bothered you. I get it. I find watching other people's kids tiring, mediating all the different interactions, just having the energy to be interested in another person's kid- that's not easy. To add to it, the other mom is there, watching, possibly ready to disapprove but not willing to help. She's not treating you as a friend, fellow parent or even a neighbor- just as free childcare. I've occasionally encountered such situations at playgrounds (parent watching but far away from kid, piggybacking on adult supervising own child until supervising adult tells kid not to hit, not to take toy, then uninvolved parent arrives to express dissatisfaction). Even for short periods of time it is annoying. In your case, I would say to the other mom one day- I have to go inside and do x- would you mind watching the girls? If she agrees, great, if not, I think I would find a way to play more often at parks than in my yard, still seeing the other child occasionally, but letting my own child know the limits. Get it

I didn't see your original post, but have to respond to the responses:

People get paid for childcare because it is work. If done well, it takes more time and energy than any other work that I have experienced.

The responses telling you to enjoy your opportunity to be more generous are not from people who have had a neighbor exploiting them for childcare. I have, and it is an impossible situation. The kids are usually sent over without permission at every time the parents think that they can get away with it. Interrupting any meal, project, bonding with family, homework, a game, etc.

Even the best of friends have conflict that takes a lot of time to deal with. I would leave the house just to avoid it, but as soon as they knew we were home they would send their kids over to our house as soon as they could.

When we finally moved away, my kid was not unhappy about it at all, and seemed to be relieved. If it doesn't feel right to you, it probably doesn't feel right to your kid either.

Maybe make a one night play date night, e.g. ''Tuesday Night is Play Night,'' and the other nights your kids ''have to do chores,'' etc.

Good luck, you have all of my compassion. These posters sound just like our old neighbors, like they were doing us a favor by having us raise their children! from an undisclosed location

Pesky neighbor kid

Sept 2011

I recently moved with my two young kids into a family- friendly East Bay neighborhod. At first, I was thrilled that my five-year-old son would have several kids in the neighborhood to play with.

And I still am, except that a particular boy a few houses down is now constantly at my door, ringing the bell and asking if my son can play. He's reliably on the doorstep each Saturday and Sunday morning, probably 5+ times a day, and soon after we get home from work/daycare most evenings. He's a nice enough kid, a few years older than my son, and his parents seem fine with him just hanging around outside until one of his playmates (and, ahem, a supervising parent) is available to provide him with something to do.

It's gotten to where I'm annoyed at the sight of this kid and can't quite believe his parents -- who are very nice people -- are fine with him constantly bugging a single(!) mother of two little kids. Needless to say, I have my hands full over here, and my son is too young to just send out the front door to roam the neighbhorhood unsupervised. I've thought of putting a ''do not disturb'' sign on my door, but I actually don't mind being disturbed by an adult neighbhor, or even other local kids who come by occasionally.

I've already hinted at the problem to his parents, and things have gotten a bit better, but I don't really want to make a big deal about it with them. They're a nice family and I'm fine with my son playing with theirs; it's really just ''too much of a good thing.''

I'm really curious: Is this a normal/acceptable way of parenting a 7-year-old boy? (I can't imagine allowing my son to do the same thing in 2 years, and would be all ''stop bugging so-and-so'' if I had any idea he were doing it.) Two, any tactful but effective ways of handling the problem? Thanks BPN! Tired of doorbell

You don't mention how often you actually let the child in to play with your kids, but I get the idea that he is at your house a lot, because him just ringing the doorbell and being sent back home (or out) wouldn't give you this much grief. I have some neighbor kids, nice enough, good playmates for my kids, who sometimes overdo it in the frequency department. Just say no. Not a good time now. It doesn't matter if you have an excuse or not. If the kid were just to ring the doorbell and you say no almost every time, he'll get the message even if he's only 7. Make it the exception rather than the rule that he can play in your house. Say ''I'm very busy now'' if you really need to say something, no further details required. I can see from my kids face that they actually sometimes get tired of seeing the same kid show up again. But even if your own kid lights up at the sight of this boy, just set your own boundaries. Send him back out, even if he looks really sad. He's gotta find his own way to not be bored. And btw, yes I let my 5 and 8 year old unsupervised in the immediate area of ours and surrounding houses (as long as I can hear/see them), it depends on how safe the neighborhood feels, and if the kids are able to follow your rules (and not roam further than agreed on). Our rule is also that they play outside and not at the neighbor's homes, unless all parents agree it's okay. I often tell my kids how busy that single mom next door must be (baby besides the 8 year old) and not to bother her. Maybe have another talk with the parents and set time boundaries (i.e. not in the mornings because you may still be asleep, not after 5:30pm because you'll be busy with dinner) and to have them talk to their son about these rules. You can tell him too directly, he's about to learn to tell time and can take these directions from an adult. Kitty

I had the same situation--only my ''pesky'' kid was an actual toddler, and so, required our attention and care to both her needs and our daughter's frustration level! It completely boggled my mind that the parents were okay with this, which to us amounted to free and unpredictable babysitting. The parents are from a different culture, which we thought may have played a part, and def. have an ''it takes a village'' sort of attitude about parenting, which we have in theory, but in practice--as two stressed, full-time working parents barely keeping all the balls in the air--it was a stretch.

That was about a year ago. In the months between then and now, our child has come to adore this little girl and considers her family. We have a free babysitter whenever we want one (at night, but even more importantly, when I need to clean the house or finish cooking dinner!) and the only arrangement I need to make is to walk the kids next door and shout in ''they're over here now, OK?'' Our child considers their house an extension of hers. Our neighbors have our house key and house-sit for us, help us with gardening and pick up our mail when we're away, and are my daughter's emergency contact for school.

My husband and I grew up in a rural community with all our relatives within walking distance. This is the closest we can imagine coming to that experiences in our urban setting. So glad we got over ourselves to accept all the gifts our neighbors had to offer to our family--it has changed everything for us. Village Person

I've got a pesky neighbor kid too, can we get the two of them together to give us some breathing room? My pesky kid is 6, and moved in 2 years ago. At age 4 the mom said, ''she's old enough to take care of herself and should be outside playing.'' which resulted in her at my house ALL THE TIME. I taught her to ring or knock only once, not 4-6 times and if we didn't answer we were unavailable. She got that after 2 reminders. and at least that piece is better. Set some boundaries with the kid adn stick to them. Tell him no coming over until at lest 15 minutes after you get home. No coming over after 5PM. etc. he'll learn to tell time! got a pesky too

I HAD to reply to this email b/c we have a VERY similar situation going on right now in our home. I have 4 children, and some neighbors have an only child who is ALWAYS over at our house if we are home. He's a nice kid, but just bored I think and frequently wanting to play with our kids. We have a house and they live in an apartment, so our yard is the natural place where the children want to play- but that also means I am the supervising adult ALL THE TIME. Based on our interactions with the family (which have been minimal, because they never check in with us before or during their child's extended stays at our house) we think the child's father may be an alcoholic, so we are not comfortable having any of our children over at their house even when they ask to go play over there. Anyway- NO I don't think this is normal behavior of parents or children, especially for a kid as young as you describe. Some things that have been helpful for us: we have established certain hours when it is not OK to knock on our door (and we kindly told his parents this in a friendly way), and we have gotten comfortable with simply stating to the child that it is time for him to go home when we need him to leave. I think these kids have parents with no boundaries, so as the supervising adult, I am establishing some boundaries for them. I am also pretty strict when he is over at our house (no screen time, no unkind words, etc.). I'll be interested to read what others write... REALLY Tired of this really nice kid

Unruly Neighbor Kid with Pellet Gun

Sept 2008

I'm the mom who posted a few weeks ago about unruly neighbor kids and how to handle them. Well now one of them has a pellet gun and he shot it at my 8-year old daughter's legs and arms, leaving marks. He also shot it at a new 7-year old neighbor boy. We told him to never shoot at people and he apologized and said he would only shoot at targets and cans. Well yesterday he had it out again and started aiming at kids until he saw us and went inside. Do we have the right to disarm this kid if he starts shooting at kids again? He is 12 years old and he is left on his own until as late as 8 in the evening when his Dad gets home so we can't just tell his Dad. Naturally, if I have to disarm him I will expect his Dad to take the thing away. What can we do as neighbors and the only adults who are watching? Neighbor Lady

Call the police, would be the most obvious solution. I imagine one call should do it. anon

Call the police and report the assault. Your child could have lost an eye. The shooter is a sociopath in the making and at his age should be dealt with by the authorities. This has gone beyond having a talk with the father. You already gave the kid a chance and he has proven that he thinks of this violent intimidation as some sort of game. Congratulations for showing more restraint than warranted. Anonymous

You're kidding right??? Do something! Call the police- this is assault if not attempted murder- yes kids have been killed with pellet guns! It's a war and time to fight back. I hope you get the confidence to make some of these decisions on your own- your children's lives might depend on it. Incredulous?

It's time to call the police. Yes, call them immediately, and tell them it's ''only'' a pellet gun, so they don't come and shoot the kid. But you call them, and you file a complaint. You have a right to do so, and you should do so before any child gets shot in the eye with a pellet. Did you know that people have been killed by pellet guns? They have, and it could happen to your children. Anon

You call the police. susan

Please find some way to disarm him, because if one of those pellets were to hit another child's eye, it could permanently blind the child. Talking to the dad seems to be one choice, in that it is his responsibility to lock up that gun or get rid of it, allowing use only under strict supervision. gun control starts early

Call the cops and see what happens. His father might think you're overreacting, but let him know that you don't want to press charges this time, but next time you will. Is this too much escalation? Maybe, but this kid is almost a teenager: the next five years are going to suck for you as neighbors, assuming he doesn't end up in prison first. And I think there is something to be said for nipping it in the bud -- he's gotta learn not to mess with you or your family. kevin

It seems like a pretty big reaction to have but I'd call the police next time. If he's pointing it at people, and has shot and injured people with it, then the toy needs to be taken away. I'm not rigidly anti gun, but it sounds like he doesn't know or doesn't want to adhere to gun safety rules which means, he's not ready to have a pellet gun. Get the police involved, that's my reaction. I understand that parents need to work and that this sometimes means that children are left unsupervised but this is out of hand. anon

Why is 8pm too late to tell dad about his son's behavior? It's never too late to go ring that doorbell and let the parent know what his child had been up to while he was gone. His dad absolutely needs to know. And if the behavior does not stop, once dad has been notified, the dad should be forwarned that the police will be called the next time a child is hit by the pellet gun. Crystal

I say, call the police PERIOD. It is the adult in the family's legal responsibility to keep a 12 y.o from being a danger. And your obligation is to keep your children safe. Tough but True

Wow, what a punk! I definitely think you should call the cops, this kid is way out of control. If you live in Oakland though you may be S outta luck. In my experience unless the kid has a real gun and he's pointing it your face, they won't care too much. I say that because once I called the cops to tell them some kids were shooting a gun off in front of my house and they said ''well, none of you other neighbors are complaning about it.'' Good luck though and you have my sympathy, what a jerk. erin

I think you should report this situation to Child Protective Services. This child is being neglected (left alone too many hours) and endangered (by having access to a pellet gun without supervision). I think the police should also be notified before some child loses an eye. If the boy's teacher knows about his situation, he/she would be legally responsible to report as well. anonymous

Yikes, how scary. Call the COPS!! Maybe talk to the Dad first, but I would let Dad know if you see the gun again while his Mom/Dad isn't around you will call the cops. Not into Guns

You need to call the police right now. I'm not a lawyer, however I believe this is called assault with a deadly weapon(yes people have been killed with pellet guns). Depending on where you live it may be a felony to even fire a pellet gun. I'm assuming that it shoots metal pellets, not so called ''soft ammo''. Dial 911 next time you see him out with the pellet gun.

call the police. every day if you need to. or a neighborhood police community liaison if there is such a thing in your neighborhood.

Rowdy neighbor children tearing up plants, breaking things

July 2008

We live in a 6 unit apartment complex in Albany that has sort of turned into a mini-village. We have some energetic boys who are about age 11-13 and some girls who are 6-8. They play in the little backyard together. The problem is that some of the boys don't have respect for plants or the property. My husband is often outside supervising my younger daughter while she plays and winds up being the one who corrects the boys' actions. We have told their parents about the problem but there hasn't been much improvement. One boy threw baseballs at the fence and broke the boards. We made sure that he told his mother, but she did absolutely no follow-up about making sure the fence was repaired. Sometimes they tear up plants. Just today they left a toy that is shared by everyone out in front and it disappeared. I would like to arrange a meeting with all of the parents, but I think we need a neutral party to help. Are their people who come to homes to be mediators in situations like this? I think the problem is that the space is just too small for the amount of energy that these boys have. They have every right to play outside, but they need to be more careful and respectful.

They sound like normal active kids to me. My son is 11 years old and we occasionally had all the neighborhood kids at our house (boys and girls) when we lived on a block with lots of kids and had a small yard. Things occasionally got broken, stuff was thrown, toys got left out, and the energy level could be deafening/overwhelming. Fortunately for us, each of the families involved were pretty reasonable and took responsibility when things went wrong.

Instead of calling everyone to a meeting which may feel like everyone is in trouble (with you as the ''enforcer'') you could try an initial step of visiting each parent and having a face to face conversation. If you approach it by saying you want to work with them so the play space accommodates everyone (even the younger kids), that may help. You could also offer up cookies or a small token of goodwill.

A few tips from the mother of a son:

(1) Parents who don't have boys are sometimes not terribly sympathetic toward ''boy energy''. (2) If you complain about a child's behavior, parents may conclude that you are too rigid and uptight and trying to impose your values (3) Parents can be quite sensitive

I hope it works out. The overall benefits of having a mini village of instant playmates will be great for your daughter when she gets older. Please keep an open mind and try to make it work. It may be annoying to you but your kids will love you for it. mom of a rowdy son

Call your landlord!!! I had a similar situation where the neighbor kids (some lived there and some just visited on the weekends)and I wrote a letter stating my concerns and asked him to do something. He then wrote a letter to all the tenants telling them they must respect the communial yard, toys, etc or else there would consequences...and for the last three months it's worked. Hope this helps. anon

Playing with Neighborhood Kids vs Playdates

Oct 2007

Okay, so I've come back from picking up my daughter at school and have been given ''the look'' yet again. My daughter attends an Oakland public school in the hills. We live in a middle class Oakland neighborhood. My daughter plays with the neighborhood kids. Not the come in the house and play or let's arrange a play date kind of play. But let's build a fort at Katy's house - Hey, Jack is good at building forts, let's go get him and his sister Sam.

The kids, age 6 - 10, cross the street, play at each other's house, in different yards, ride bikes around the block together (no crossing streets with the bike). It should be said here that the 6 year olds don't have the same freedom as the 10 year olds. There is a group of 9 kids in total from 6 families. Kids are from several different ethnic backgrounds, religions and family make-ups. The kids ''check in'' with their parent/guardian if they are leaving their own block and come in for dinner or call their parents if they are eating at the neighbor's house. All the parents have the phone numbers of the other parents and there\xc2\x92s an agreement that you can disciple with words when needed with any of the kids.

When I talk about this with the families at my daughter's school, they first ask where we live, then ask if we're afraid for our daughter's safety when she's outside playing. Sometimes there's a mention of not being able to do the same thing in the hills because there are no sidewalks, or the kids live too far apart - then they ask why we don't ''do play dates?''

So, how do parents feel about play dates vs neighborhood kids playing together? Are you fearful? Do your kids ride their bikes with other kids? Do your kids have the freedom to go to other kid\xc2\x92s houses if they tell you or call you? Am I just still living in the 70s thinking life is good and forts, climbing trees, chalk drawn hopscotch and blow up pools are fun and important? Skinned Knees are Good Things

Wow - your situation sounds AWESOME! I think it is great for your child to have that type of freedom and to make friends in the neighborhood. Yes, you have to be mindful of safety, but if we teach our children to always be afraid - isn't that also dangerous? That said, you might consider a day each week where you host, or attend, a ''planned'' playdate so your child can get to know classmates. I live in a really safe neighborhood, but without any children my son's age. I try and host playdates at my house because it is conducive to playing outside, building forts, etc., but I long for a situation where kids run around to eachother's houses. As long as you feel confident with the other children, and their parents, I say enjoy it! Also, check out ''The Dangerous Book for Boys'' (geared for boys, but fine for girls) which talks about - and details - all kinds of stuff our generation did as kids that kids don't do anymore. Good luck! Fort-building mom

GOOD FOR YOUR KIDS! I am so excited to hear that normal, unscheduled, non- playdate playing is going on in your neighborhood. Can I move there?

Why people think there are more child predators today than there were in the 70s when we were growing up (or at least some of us were growing up) is a mystery. It's flat out not true. The problem is everyone THINKS there are more crimes against children because of the immediacy of modern-day media. There were crimes before, sure, but we didn't hear about them because they weren't in our neighborhood. Now the world is our neighborhood and something that happens in Rockridge seems as close to us as something that happened in Hanover, N.H.

We are an ultra-cautious society -- sometimes to the extent that it isn't actually good for our children. From your note it sounds like all the kids in your neighborhood are responsible and know who to contact, and do contact them, when the need arises. You are fostering great trust and healthy indepence in your children.

So I'm not sure what the problem here is, quite frankly. The parents at your school are making you feel like *&^% because your kids have a normal, stable play life? You should just shake your head and say, ''What a shame you guys have to rely on playdates.'' Anon.

It sounds like you have a fantastic situation in your neighborhood and the parents you are talking to are jealous and/or having an unconsciously racist/classist response. Relax and enjoy what you've got!

I am sooooo much in favor of playing with neighborhood kids over the chauffeured parent-managed playdate, I don't even know where to begin. YES, it's safe -- safe enough!! And it would be even safer if more people let their kids play outside so that there would be a big pack of kids of all ages outdoors. The perspective that our kids must be indoors and under our eyes at all times in order to be ''safe'' seems to me to be soooooo wrong. It isn't any more dangerous in 2007 than in was in 1967 for kids to be outdoors in their neighborhoods - it's just that we've become totally paranoid. Anon

Your situation sounds ideal. I would not trade your daughter's community of friends for playdates and a home on a hilly street with no sidewalks for anything. The only reason for a playdate for your daughter is if she has a special friend at school that she wants to see outside of school. Otherwise, just enjoy your situation and don't let others' stress get to you. --also lucky to live in a friendly community

Oh how I envy your situation! Being from Europe I don't get the playdate thing at all, and living in the area I do we practically never see kids on the street, let alone be able to pop over to a neighborhood friend's house to play. It's enough to make me want to leave the bay area; I had no idea real neighborhood play was going on right there in Oakland! Also sounds like racism and classism are sadly alive and well in the bay area and that's part of what you're dealing with at the school. I only see a point in playdates with kids from school if they've built a real friendship you want to build on, and you connect with the family. Otherwise, they spend enough time together already, how wonderful that they are living amongst and playing with such a diverse group of children and you can save on the scheduling/ driving! I say enjoy what you have, and let your children be children. missing the 70's

I'm not totally sure what advice you're looking for. I don't know why your daughter can't do both: play with kids on her street AND have the occasional playdate. My daughter plays with friends on our street all the time, but they aren't necessarily her best friends. She can't help that some kids she really enjoys live too far away to play with easily.

Also you talk about your neighborhood vs. the that the crux of this? I lived in Montclair for a long time and it was all playdates because of the reasons you cite: unsafe hills and curves, no sidewalks, and kids living too far from each other to get to each other's houses safely. Essentially, your daughter is in school with many kids that can't just play on the street, so they have to do playdates to see each other. I can see where she'd feel left out, especially if she has good friends that don't live in her neighborhood. Again, letting her have playdates once in awhile won't hurt anything.

I will say that the playdate thing can get out of control. I have talked to some moms and we have agreed to get our kids to stop talking about and planning playdates constantly at school. It becomes a snubbing system of sorts, and some kids lord their frequent playdates over the other kids. Why do Skinned Knees Have to Happen Only at Home?

Play dates are an adaptation born out of necessity to create the semblance of what you have at home. If you feel that your kids are safe, hold on to your neighborhood community.

I don't think I'll be the only respondent who is totally jealous of your neighborhood! We have a lot of kids on our street, too. However, everyone seems to be in after-school care so we don't get a lot of playing around on the street after school. It's a bummer. I think your situation is grand and wish we had that here. Anon

I think to most people your neighborhood sounds great. You are really lucky. When other people say their neighborhood doesn't work like that, they are telling the truth, not just being snobby. For various reasons (hills, no sidewalk, no kid neighbors, scary neighbors, busy street, isolated street) lots of people in all demographics don't have the same situation. Maybe the other mothers are just wondering if you would be willing to ''do'' a playdate with their child who doesn't live right around you. If your daughter wants to, that could be fun too.anon anon

You are very fortunate. That is a dream of mine to live on a street with families such as yours! I'm wondering if most people only do playdates because they don't have such a wonderful situation as yours. At least, that is true for me. I would love for my kids to have that experience. But every one is different and have different trust levels, values and lifestyles. I would say to trust yourself. You know the neighborhood, the families, and your kids better than anyone. Sounds like you know them well enough to trust them and feel that they are safe. Enjoy and appreciate what you have. One thing to say is if there is a specific kid from school that wants to play with yours, maybe be open to scheduling playdates periodically with them. Wishing I lived on your block!

All I can say is that your kids are very, very lucky! One of the saddest things to me is that I never hear the sound of children playing in my, not fancy, but ''safe'' neighborhood. I think back on my childhood of standing outside my friends houses and calling their names, building forts, making up games, and resourcefully using what was at hand, and I wonder what's going to become of all these kids who have no idea what to do with themselves if they're not in some structured ''worthwhile'' activity or being entertained. Anon

Our street in the Oakland foothills (nice neighborhood but not far from ''problem areas''). A big group of kids from multiple houses all hang out together and do similar things - run around, basketball, ride bikes, go in and out of neighboring houses, play ball, hanging out in the neighborhood. Early on some of the kids were also quite young including younger siblings at ages 3, 4, 5. This frightened me as they were clearly too young to be ''unsupervised'' and being around a slightly older sibling wasn't enough. My child is now 6 and is not permitted to hang out with this group unless I'm watching. Call me paranoid, but a young child is still vulnerable and I'm not going to take that chance in an ''urban'' environment. Maybe when my child is closer to 10, I will be okay with more freedom as long as there were understood boundaries. We do have arranged playdates with neighborhood kids, but mainly see friends from school. Cautious mom

I think your neighborhood play situation sounds GREAT. We have this going on in my neighborhood and it's one of the many things I love about where we currently live (my kid is too young to participate yet). Unfortunately, the schools in my area are awful, so we will need to find a new home before kid #1 reaches school age. One of my concerns is finding a new neighborhood with a similar vibe. I hate it when you only catch glimpses of the neighbors as they're going from car to house. As for formal playdates with kids outside the neighborhood, I would personally want to have some every now & then to foster relationships for both me and my kid with the other families at the school. Jealous

We live in the El Cerrito flats. Kids in our neighborhood play together like yours. It is so fun to see that the statistics about too much screen time don't apply to these kids. I'm not anti-playdate, but running around with neighborhood kids is just easier for me, and the dynamic seems more natural. --mom

I think it's great that your kids are able to have unstructured play time with other kids in their neighborhood. I may be living in a 70s dream world as well, but I used to feel sorry for my peers who had to go to this class and that practice all the time. Now it seems to be the norm for kids to either be in a structured environment or have their parents around all the time. I would have hated it myself.

My son is still too young for the world of play dates, but I have to say, the term itself makes me cringe. Maybe you could compromise and set up a couple of (ugh) play dates with his friends at school, but I think your kids are lucky to be able to enjoy neighborhood play. Jean

I'm with you. Skinned knees have got to make a come back. I've always thought we were the mellow parents, but we just got back from a summer trip to Vermont with some friends and thier kids and we were soooo much more uptight then they were. Both my friends had huge barns and lived on multiple acres. The kids swung from the rafters, had tree forts, climbed trees that were like 40 feet high and they had the time of thier lives. They played flashlight tag, even my 2 year old till about 10 at night. They ran and played so hard. We do not do that here and when we got back from our trip, we tried to stay mellow about the 2yo on the playground and playing in the park (he's very athletic and agile) and we got some real nasty looks. I just ignored them, for god's sake when they fall on the playground now, it's got that squishy ground, how hurt can they get. He even fell from the tree house at our friends house, it was about 5 feet high. He cried a bit and about 2 minutes later, he climbed up it again. I really think we are wayyyyyy overprotective here in the bay area. I don't think it's the time, I think it's that place. We in the bay area need to chill out, I think we are a bit too obsessed with our children, I think we think they are a bit ''too special''. I grew up in a much tougher area than most areas in the bay area (I found a gun in the creek behind my house and I was playing near a dumpster once that had a body in it that the mob just wacked, really, I'm not BSing you, I've lost a lot of my early childhood friends to drug overdoses) and we were just fine. We need to get over ourselves. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids that all got to the same school and I'm really trying to create that culture as well, ''have your kid come over here and sometimes I'll send my kid over there'', playing on the sidewalk, ect. I think we've got a little kooky and playing in the hood is what childhood is all about anon

My kids play with neighbor kids in much the same way you describe -- the 6yo with much more independence than the 3yo, of course, and with a little less freedom than you describe which is probably due to the average age on our block being a little lower. And we feel very fortunate to live in a neighborhood where this is possible! So clearly I am in favor of free-form can-you-come-out-and-play type neighborhood ''playdates''. And no, I don't worry overmuch about safety.

But we also arrange somewhat more formal playdates from time to time, with the kids' schoolmates who live a little farther away, or who have a different childcare schedule, or for whatever other reason are friends with our kids but whom we don't just happen to encounter out and about in the same way we do the other kids who live on the same block we do.

So it's not as if I have an anti-playdate philosophy; in fact, I wish it were easier than it is to arrange after-school playdates with my son's classmates. On the other hand, the kids participating in these playdates are going to do the same sorts of things our neighborhood kids do together -- including riding bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk. So perhaps there is some other distinction being made in your area that I'm not quite getting?! It's all good

What you describe sounds really wonderful to me. I guess I probably would want to know who the adults were in the neighborhood homes, just to make sure no one seemed particularly creepy, and I'd want to make sure that my kids knew to tell me if anyone seemed strange. I also live in Oakland and find that occasionally people who don't live in Oakland, or who live in the hills, either make assumptions about the flat lands or don't have a clue about what it's like to live anywhere that's not just like where they live. Many people have never lived in a racially AND economically diverse neighborhood and they never will. My deep down opinion is that there's also unspoken racism. I guess that in theory you are exposing your children to the risk that perhaps there's a molestor living in one of these homes, but it's a well know statistic that most children who are molested are molested by someone close to them. Then there's the also really remote risk of abductions when they're out and about. You just have to evaluate your particular situation, neighbors, responsibility levels of the kids, etc. But I would trust your gut feelings, and ignore what the school parents are saying. anonymous.

wow! i wish i had your situation. we have one other family here (grand lake) that we have a similar vibe with, but since currently mine are 6 and 2 and theirs are 4 and 1, there is more parent supervision. i sincerely hope we can be like that in 4-5 years. there is a ''worry'' mentality these days, enhanced by shows like COPS, america's most wanted, etc. in my opinion this is designed to convince the american people to accept the overturning of the bill of rights, purportedly in exchange for feeling safer. so i see parents hover and try to prevent any ''danger,'' raising kids who are afraid to take any risks. and i see it happen more in more affluent areas (montclair, piedmont), maybe also due to former corporate executive type, now stay at home mamas needing something to micromanage and stress about. --wish i had your ''village''--

I didn't see the original post but wanted to chime in about the joys of living in flatland neighborhoods with lots of kids. We live in El Cerrito and on our block there are at least 9 school age kids ranging from kindergarten to middle school. We chose the neighborhood school but many families do not. So far, that hasn't stopped all the kids from going in and out of each others' houses (and yards) with a great deal of freedom. It's a flat street where the houses are very close to each other.

It's not uncommon to have 5 kids in my home or back yard before and after dinner. My youngest is 6 and she is allowed to go in and out of 3 other homes on the block. My 10-year-old is allowed to walk home from school with a friend.

All of our closest neighbors have my home number and can call any time if I need to know something. If we are going out to dinner and an extra kid wants to go along, we call the family and ask if it's okay.

I also do more traditional playdates (when my kids ask for them) with friends at school but they do very few structured after school activities because there is so much to do on our block.

I grew up in Los Angeles County and remember some of the horrific crimes (Hillside Strangler, Manson family murders) but, fortunately, my parents never allowed paranoia to keep me and my siblings from walking 4 blocks to the grocery store. I feel fortunate that my children are having a similar childhood experience. --let kids be kids

I think your neighborhood & situation sound fabulous. But please do consider inviting your children's classmates over as well. Some of us aren't lucky enough to live in safe, flat neighborhoods with lots of kids like yours. Our kids really like & need to play with other kids, too -- & it's sometimes awfully hard to arrange opportunities for them to do so. Lisa

First grader neighbor is always at our house

Jan 2007

Our neighbor's 1st-grade son (an only child) is the same age as one of our children. On different occasions, they have sent him over to our house to play: in the afternoon w/o having fed him lunch beforehand, to stay ~4 hours through dinner time w/o inquiring about him or asking him to come home to eat, right before or during our dinner time (5:30-6:00-ish), while seeing us arrive home (very tired) after being out all day w/our kids (right before dinner time), etc. Furthermore, we usually end up being the ones to send him home, rather than someone in his household asking for him to come home.

One afternoon while preparing dinner, after telling our son it would be inappropriate for him to visit his classmate at that time w/o being invited, guess who comes over to our house?

Saying ''no'' to our neighbor's child isn't always easy, but not only can his visits put us in an awkward spot at times, but we've also been put in a contradictory position with our children and what we try to teach them.

Can anyone suggest a tactful way for us to handle this with our neighbor and their son. Of course, we have nothing against play dates or visits from their son. We're just looking for help with letting them know what we consider appropriate and acceptable in these situations. Thanks for any help. Berkeley Parents

I used to have my child tell the other child (or I would do it) that they can't play today, right now, or on a school day- which ever applies.You could put a time limit on it- can only play for 30 minutes on a school night. anon

Think about it from your child's point of view. How lovely for him to have a playmate nearby, and to have a comfortable, casual arrangement with a friend he really likes. Do you feel secure in letting your son play at their house, too? If so, this could be a great setup -- when you're tired, he goes to their house to play. My child had a group of three children his age on our street (we called them his posse), and it was good for all 3 of them to be able to go into all 3 houses. He has missed them terribly since we've moved. Maybe invite the boy's parents over for coffee to see if you like them? Most kids rely on our setting up playdates; those who can arrange their own playdates are lucky! Missing the Posse

We have a similar situation. Next door neighbors have a child similar in age to our kids. Both her parents work. When she sees us come home, she knocks on the door within 5 minutes and stays until we tell her to leave. However, it hasn't been a problem for us. Half the time when she comes, we turn her away because my kids have other things they need to do. When we're getting ready for dinner, I send her home. She's a sweet girl and we really don't mind having her around, but I also don't hesitate for a second to tell her she needs to leave or she can't come over. It's slightly annoyed me that her parents don't reciprocate by hosting our kids, but recently I think their Dad has felt guilty and they are having my kids over more often. Bottom line, if you aren't comfortable, say no. You'll be setting a good example for your kids AND not telling them one thing and then letting your neighbor do another. Good luck. Todd

''Ok Jack, you need to go home now.'' If by chance one day you feel like feeding him with your family, like if he comes over before lunch and the kids are still having a lot of fun, have him go home and ask or call his mom to see if it's OK. This will show him and perhaps his parents what the difference is. If he turns up one day and you just don't want him to come over just say, ''Sorry Jack, Jimmy can't have a friend over right now.'' Not that hard!

My Mother had this problem with a neighbor kid some 30+ years or so and I thought she handled it quite well. When the girl came over our house for a visit that extended itself into dinner time she sent the visitor back home with a ''it's dinner time here and, you are welcome to come back tomorrow for play'' or, a ''it's time to go home, we are going to have dinner, you are welcome to come over tomorrow'' or some other variation on that theme. I also think that a honesty with the neighbors would be appropriate. Mention that while you love to have their boy over, you don't allow visitors during your family dinner hour which iss x time to x time. And, don't feel guilty about sending him home by saying your child cannot play right now because it's too close to dinner, or by saying he can only play for a short time before dinner.

Perhaps, these parents have different schedules for dinner/lunch and are not aware that they are inconveniencing you. I think it's appropriate to also mention what time your lunch hour and dinner hours are and that you don't have visitors during that time, while you would love visits from the child at other times.

You might also think that this child doesn't get great parenting and, his food needs are not being met at home. And, if he's hungry it's not his fault that his caregiver is not feeding him or looking out for his needs...I had this problem once and just ended up always adding an extra place at our table for my daughter's friend whom I'm sure wasn't getting 3 square meals a day. I felt sorry that this child wasn't getting attention/nutrition that she needed and, I really didn't feel put out by it. anon

At our house, this is how we handle it. If neighbor kids want to come over and play in our house or in our back yard, they need to ask first (at the door or at the gate). We have learned that if we are not up for a visit (homework, too tired, about to eat a family meal, about to go out, have other frinds over and don't ant more) then we tell them it is not a good time right now. The neighbors have learned to accept that (even if they do whine). We just tell them no and send them home. If they are over at our house and we feel it is time for them to leave (time for us to have jsut family time), we will send them home. We will watch young ones to make sure they get back to their own house okay.

Our kids would sometimes love to go over to another neighbors house, but if those neighbors have other company or family over then we tell them they can't. We don't even let them invite themselves over to another neighbors house, anyway. We think it is best to invite kids to our house, play in the neutral areas like front yards or side yards (and maybe someone else will come out - or you can invite them), or ask them to go to the playground with us. Just say no and send them back. Anon neighbor

talk to his parents! tell them exactly what you wrote down below... what is obvious to you is not obvious to every parent, everywhere--even right next door to you. i've learned that all different people have so many different expectations, you just have to be upfront with stuff like this--maybe they have totally different schedule, etc... I have really weird things about space and people just droping in from space (I work really weird hours, so dropping in on my household-- I could be eating dinner at 3AM)... talk to your meighbors

i'm sorry about your situation, but why did you feel compelled to highlight that the neighbor child is an only child. it didn't seem pertinent frankly, and ''asides'' like that are unnecessary and perpetuate stereotypes. expecting more

You have to take control of this situation, but tact may not be the tool to use. I had a very similar situation when my kids were younger. Honestly, I spent months training that child in what was appropriate. It was tiring, but I had to do it. The key, I think, is that you are training him, not his parents. When you teach children, you are very straightforward. You say, ''Junior can't play tonight, it is almost time for dinner.'' You say this every night for three weeks, then the child learns not to come over. In my case, I walked her home, since she didn't want to leave. Once evening she stood outside our window looking in at us eating. Twice I opened the door to tell her the kids could not play the rest of the night, and she should go home. Eventually, I closed the curtain on her. It seems ridiculous, but she was having a hard time getting that we meant it. She eventually became a well-behaved and appropriately-timed guest at our home. I didn't try to bring this up with her parents, since they clearly lacked the understanding of what was appropriate in the first place, or their child would have known it. Put the energy into training your neighbor child, and you will benefit. anon

I feel really sorry for the other kid. It sounds like there's very little structure in his home, and he must feel bad being turned away when his parents throw him out the door, unfed, to burden you.

Here's what I'd do: ''Timmy, We have certain rules in our home, one of them is that you must call before you come over. I'm going to give your mom our telephone number and she can help you call us to see if it's a good time for you to come and play.'' You give little timmy your number, and you also go to his house and give his parents your number: ''Hi Timmy's mom! We really like having timmy over, but it's disruptive when it's dinner/lunch/nap/family time. I'd really appreciate it if you could have HIM CALL US (caps mean; you are teaching the child some manners and responsibility by having him make the calls) to see if it's a good time for visiting.''

Also, I understand being frustrated when he comes over hungry, but come on... he's what, 7 or 8 years old??? Can't you just give him a peanut butter sandwich or something? Really it's not his fault that his family doesn't feed him when they should; you could at least not begrudge him food. I understand your frustration is really w/ the parents,and unless you're going to call them on this, just give him a bite to eat and forget about it. Maybe his family is abusive, or mean, or stupid, or any number of things. they might just be clueless. Anyway it goes, feeding him a snack isn't going to break your bank. Lastly, it doesn't sound like the kid is being cared for very attentively. In some ways, it really does take a village... your kindness to this child will help him grow up to be a better person. And teaching him respect for your boundaries, i.e. by calling before coming over, is one way to do that. It is also teaching kindness by feeding the poor little guy and not making a big deal of it. Anon

Neighborhood friend is always over, crashing playdates

Nov 2006

My 5.5 year old daughter has a neighborhood friend who waits outside our house nearly every day, waiting for my daughter to come home (they go to different schools, and my daughter is also in aftercare). Actually, this girl (age 6) and her younger brother (age 3 or 4) are often left unsupervised outside for hours at a time, and if they aren't at our house they are otherwise wandering up and down the street). Many days my daughter plays with them (if it is just the girl, my d can invite her in; if it is the girl and her brother or other kids, they must play outside, near our house). We almost always have to ask them to leave for us to eat dinner and/or to otherwise get on with the rest of our afternoon or evening.

Things have gotten awkward when my daughter has had other, more structured play dates with other kids from school or other places. My daughter often does not want to play with this girl when her other friends are over, (and from my experience 3-way play dates tend to be fraught with exclusion, tears etc, so I prefer her to just have one friend over at a time as well). I feel bad sending the girl home as if she were a 2nd tier friend, but the fact is she is nearly ALWAYS waiting, so there is nothing else to do but explicitly ask her to go home. Any suggestions for minimizing hurt feelings or otherwise dealing with this girl? Need guidance on friend boundaries

I have a 5 year old and understand the problem of 3-way play dates. I would try to schedule playdates with the neighbor girl's parent(s), then she might slowly get used to the idea that she can come over when it is planned in advance and that people are not available when they have a guest over. (Then be sure not to have drop-ins when during the neighbor girl's playdates.) I think it shouldn't be on you to have to turn her down all the time, but I wouldn't feel bad about it if they play together fairly often. Drop-ins should call ahead

Your primary concern should not be excluding this little girl, as difficult as that is, it should be why her parents are letting her roam around the neighborhood unsupervised at age 6. I work for Alameda County Social Services and can tell you that this is a reportable situation, especially since it is chronic. Please call the hotline at 510.259.1800. A very experienced worker will talk with you and determine if the family needs an investigation. If so, most likely the social worker would help the parents get the resources they need, like child care, to properly to care of their children. One of these children could get hurt or victimized, please take it seriously and call. thanks ssa employee

My comment is not specifically about your daughter and this neighborhood girl. The girl sounds terribly lonely; at the same time, you're not responsible for being her daily caregiver.

There is a larger problem here, which is why are a 6-year-old and a 3- or 4- year old left unsupervised for hours at a time and often wandering up and down the street? This has got to be illegal on some level? It seems like you could best help her and her sibling by contacting Child Protective Services about this situation.

This is not an extreme measure -- they can investigate the situation, they don't just yank the children out of the home. If this just a case of a parent being absent-minded about their care, this would be a wakeup call. If there is a serious neglect issue, the children need an authority figure to step in. Your report would be anonymous -- CPS would not give out your name as the complainant while they are investigating. Please be the best adult and friend you can be by forcing their caregivers to deal with this potentially dangerous situation. It makes my stomach turn to think of what can happen to two young children who are left on their own like this Your concern is a blessing

talk to the parent about setting playdates with the girl, and talk to the girl too. Or let her know that you like to have her over, but sometimes you do other things too. Or tell her ahead of time: would you like to come play on Wednesday? we can't play tuesday this week... Your situation sounds like a drag. Be compassionate, but don't feel guilty about setting boundaries.

Neighbor's 11yo daughter is throwing glass and yelling obscenities

Aug 2006

My backyard fence runs adjacent to a small apartment's backyard. For the last six months, we've had incidents with an 11 year-old girl tenant. On a regular basis, she will get on the second floor landing facing my yard and verbally harass my sons calling them names, e.g, ''f-en boys,'' ''suckers, and ''losers.'' She seems to be obsessed especially with my 10 year old son whom she's always seeking the attention of by calling his name over and over again. Once, she threw wall tile from the second floor landing to shatter my glass deck table. When she did that, the table didn't shatter but it made such a crashing noise, it scared me to death.

My husband spoke to her father about this. The father simply stated he is not aware of his daughter causing any problems. Recently, she and her younger brother threw empty wine bottles with such force towards my wooden fence that chards of glass penetrated through our fence and landed onto my plants and children's play area. When I told her to stop, she simply giggled and ran into the complex.

Lastly, over the weekend, upon our return from an outing, we found garbage that had been thrown over the fence and dumped onto our deck. My husband and I have gone to the complex to speak to the manager but we don't see any manager on site. We don't want to speak to the parents because we don't want it to turn into a confrontational situation.

I'm wondering how to contact the property owner/landlord. I have come to the last straw and I don't know what else this girl is capable of doing, and I don't know who is responsible if this girl causes more problems on my property or towards my children, the parents or the landlord? I've been hesitant to call the police because of the girl's age, and I really don't want any problems but I'm at my wit's end. I know I sound cowardly but I guess my last resort is to file a restraining order but I'm not even sure the judge would grant one considering the girl's age. Any informative advice would be appreciated. Thank you Distraught Homeowner

I was frightened when I heard about the situation with your neighbor's daughter. I would be scared for your safety and that of your children. You are being abused by a child. You've taken the right first step by approaching the parents. If they have not agreed to look into things and help stop this awful behavior, or are willing to be available to you when you see things happening so they can intervene, then you have to take matters into your own hands. I'm not a lawyer, but if someone endangers you, regardless of age, charges can be pressed on the child (and possibly the parents.) I think you've been reasonable in your efforts to ameliorate the situation.

What will happen if you don't try to put an end to this dangerous behavior? If you don't call the police and get help, this girl can do much more damage than just shatter glass and dump garbage. Are you willing to risk the safety and psychological well being of you and your family? Your children have the right to play in their yard without fear or undue stress.

I think we have a responsibility not only to our own families to keep them safe, but to our community as well. If you don't help this girl learn her lesson, she's going to grow up thinking she can bully and disrespect people; she'll learn that it's ok as long as she doesn't get caught. Don't be the victim in this. Choose to be a part of the solution and get the police involved. You are also role modeling for your children how to appropriately handle bullies and that you as their parent are committed to keeping them safe and happy. Remember that a landlord has ulterior motives anyway and they usually hate to get involved or have no real teeth in situations that are hearsay. The police are fair non- participants and it's their job to help keep people safe Concerned mother of 2

How about inviting her over for a playdate? She clearly wants attention, even though she is asking for it in a negative way. If you don't want to do that or if it doesn't work, I'd call the police anon

Please! Have some compassion! If she is calling your kids ''losers'' and so on, it is because someone is calling her those names. She must be feeling lonely and rejected. Is there any chance you can invite her over to play for a short while? Just spend 1/2 and hour making cookies with her or cutting out paper dolls. I really hope that you can turn this around. Talking to the parents will probably only make matters worse. And the landlord has no control over the situation. Your only choice, in my opinion, is to be the bigger person (after all, you are the adult) and be sweeter than honey. I know that this is easier said than done, but it is worth a try. annoymommy

This is unacceptable, and a burden on your kids. You have to make it stop. You can't stop her. If just talking to her would work, it would be over. You will have to deal with her folks, her landlord and/or cops.

I would suggest you start now making a log of incidents, including desciptions, dates and times, and taking pictures as well. (This eliminates the dad's ''nothing happening'' excuse.) With pictures and dates you try dad first. Send a certified letter, keep a copy and add it to your file. If you get no response, or negative response, next time call the cops. They won't do much, but it's possible that uniforms at the door will cause the father to stop matters. And add the police report to your file. If it continues, send a copy of record to landlord. Tell him that the tenant's actions are interferring with your ''quiet enjoyment of your premises,'' and that it is his responsibilty to end it. (You can check with Nolo press; there's a specific term to use.) If he doesn't respond, you can threaten him with a small claims suit up to $5K for loss of comfortable use of your property. (This is where the file comes in.) Small claims court doesn't require a lawyer, you just need to read up and have your paperwork. Most likely it won't go this far, but I've had a nuisance neighbor and got things cleaned up right around the setting a court date point. Good luck. laura

In this situation, your children are in danger. If she does it again, call the police and report the harrassment. If possible, use a video tape to show her doing these things. If she is being verbally abusive and could possibly physically harm your children, something must be done IMMEDIATELY


I can't see that you have any other choice BUT to call the police. You've attempted to halt the situation with the parent, but that led nowhere. Unless you want to move? She's clearly not being parented...a good fright from a policeman might be exactly what she needs. You may have to set up a hidden camera or something to acquire proof however. Good luck to you ---anon

You have to talk to the girl's parents. Their apartment manager is not their parent. He has nothing to do with this. You said you talked to the dad before and he said he was not aware of the problem. Well now he is, since you told him. Are these kids home alone all day? I highly doubt it. When something happens, go over there and address it right away. If the parents aren't home, talk to them when they are. Invite them over to see the trash where it has been thrown over. I am sure they do not want their kid doing such things and they will set her straight anon

We had a similar problem with the apartment building next door, though with some differences... there is no building manager on site and we have no idea who the owner is or what property management company is running it at any given time, and we never witnessed who was throwing things at our house. In our case it started with eggs, and escalated to glass (bottles) shattered all over our driveway. This always happened when we were not home. After the glass incident we called the police as we felt things were escalating... and we hadn't even done anything but wash the egg off our house. We told the officer what had been going on and he went door to door at the apartment building and spoke to ''all'' of the tenents. (I am guessing he skipped the old lady, and focused more on the teenagers who had been hanging out on the balconies.) After that we had no more problems... fortunately egg free

I find it disconcerting that the parents are denying any wrong doing of their children. For lack of better solutions, I would talk to the parents again and let them know what you are going through, or videotape the girl's actions and show them to her parents. If you do decide to talk to her parents better to do it right after the incident. You are protecting your property and children, don't be afraid to take action you will feel alot better for it in the end. mama bear

Perhaps you could install a video camera (in a discreet location) and record some of the actions by this nasty little girl. Then you would have evidence, and could hopefuly proceed with an effective resolution of the problem anon

It sounds to me like the girl is endangering you and your family, period. I would defintely contact the property owner (you can look up the property owner on the county tax assessor website) and probably the police too. Another idea: what about videotaping the girl in action? Maybe that would stop her itself. If not, mail copies of the tape to her parents, property owner, etc.

Do call the police. This situation is dangerous to you and your family, and this girl's behavior will not change until her parents realize how serious it is, and the police will be the best way to convince the parents how serious this is! Because she is young, the police will deal with the parents, not her, so don't worry about her age. Call them now Good luck.

I agree with the posters who said that the little girl is begging for attention, I'd go so far as to say she's in, or headed toward, some pretty deep psychological trouble. I also agree that she is hearing ''losers'' from someplace and that she might be being psychologically abused at home.

I disagree about inviting her over for a couple of reasons. First is that if she's as needy and troubled as she sounds, she's going to get attached to you pretty quickly and then you are going to be in the position of either taking her on as your project or rejecting her. Another possibility is that she could become even more of a menace inside your home.

It's a difficult situation, but I think that calling the police to seek their advice is your only alternative. It is a dangerous situation for your family and it's not going to stop on its own. Hopefully they will, as part of a visit to her home, stay long enough to try and pick up any clues of psychological (and/or physical) abuse anon

Neighbor kids/mom, no boundaries!

June 2006

We have new neighbors in with 2 girls, 4&5 This is the problem. One, the kids come over every day, sometimes as early as 6:30am. I have mentioned this to the single mom AND sent the kids home when it's too early, but they do this when mom is asleep or in the shower. Two, mom & kids want our kids want to spend every waking moment together. The kids come over many times during the day, despite being told that my kids can't play, have another playdate,etc. They walk right in the house. I send the kids home repeatedly sometimes, but don't feel that I should stop and talk to mom about this every time when i'm busy or have company, or just want to hang out with my kids alone. Third, my kids want to play at the other house ALL of the time, probably because there are few rules. Messes aren't cleaned up, mealtime is freeform, they are allowed to jump on the furniture, etc. I either have to say no, or only at our house, or go over after a few hours and say that it's time to come home.I also tell my kids to clean up before they leave, but the mom says they don't need to. I am driving all limits in this situation. It's not right for somebody else to babysit my kids all day, plus I want my kids to experience being a host, I want to play with them too, and I want them to have some discipline. I've tried suggesting arranged playdates with finite amounts of time, alternating houses, but mom seems almost hurt at the suggestion (ie, do you MIND them being at my house?), and sort of clueless about why I would want to do this. All of this in front of the kids. 4th, there are custody issues, and the police have knocked on the door a couple of times (once when my kids were there). I don't know these people well enough to know the issues, but am not thrilled with the whole picture. What to do? This is a nice mom who seems to love her kids and is sweet with mine, but overall I'm not thrilled with the atmosphere, and this woman's parenting style is so different from everyone I know that I'm not sure where to start. I'm not the most assertive person, but I have made suggestions on how to put limits on the situation, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. Also, they live almost right next door, which makes this awkward frustrated parent

ou have described my worst nightmare! I am the type that needs lots of down time with my kid and lots of privacy. I don't even like it when my good friends just drop by without calling first. You need to start by calling a family meeting with your own kids and letting them know how much you value them and that part of taking care of your family includes teaching them appropriate behavior. The whole''different families do things different ways'' is always a good place to start so that you don't have to be too critical of the neighbors. Your kids need to know how you want to do things. This mom might not pick up on social cues so you will have to spell everything out for her. This could also be part of the reason she is involved in a dysfunctional custody situation. The police stopping by would be enough for me to say NO MORE good luck--your family comes first

You need to sit down (with your kids or not) and figure out a schedule. Then stick to it. This will be very difficult, but it is probably the only way to resolve this problem. Since it seems your neighbor-mom does not have a lot of structure in her life, you will need to provide it for her. Say that your kids can play at the neighbor's three afternoons a week, and then two afternoons a week you will take all the kids to the park. Give the kids someplace to go outside of where they live. Be firm, and if her kids come over at a time when they are not scheduled to be playing with your kids, send them home and tell them to come back at whatever time is in the schedule. Make sure your kids know the schedule also. At first it will be tough but I think once everyone knows the routine, there will be fewer hassles don't like schedules myself

This mom is sweet with your kids. Her kids are sweet with you. Your kids like being at their house. What on earth could the problem be? Sure the 6:00 am thing is annoying, but it doesn't seem like a fair reason to deny your kids a fun place to play with friends. So what if the rules are different at her house than they are at yours? You don't give your kids enough credit if you think that they can't understand that people are different from one another, and that just because something is cool in one house doesn't mean it's cool at home. I imagine that if someone asked you if you were in favor of diversity, you would say yes. Well, here it is. Diversity is when someone is different than you. Accepting diversity is learning how to accept that someone is different than you. If all your friends have the exact same parenting philosophies, then maybe your kids NEED to meet some new people. Finally, your implication that the fact that there is custody drama should somehow be a problem for your kids is, quite frankly, elitist and snobby. Unless people are fighting, cussing, and threatening to kill each other, your kids will not be harmed by exposure to different family situations. You should try being a single mom and having an acrimonious relationship with your ex-husband. It's a lot easier to get to that point than you think. Just because you're uncomfortable with difference doesn't mean your kids have to be. Give them a chance to form their own opinions by letting them be exposed to this kind of diversity. Chances are you have as much to learn from her parenting as she does from yours. anon

Neighborhood kids playing in our yard

April 2005

Recently my family and I moved to a great neighborhood in Berkeley. We love where we live, but lately have had a few issues with neighborhood kids playing in our yard or on the sidewalk in front of our house. The kids, sometimes 5-10 at a time, play catch and tag, skate, ride bikes and scooters, play basketball and baseball, chase frisbees and so on (normal kids stuff, I know). Balls and gear end up in our yard, often hitting our cars and house in the process. Kids run all over the yard and I've seen bicycles crossing our lawn, which has destroyed our grass in areas. The neighborhood parents are nice people, but they don't seem to care that their kids are in the yards of others.

I don't mean for this post to seem unfriendly. I love kids and have two boys, but they don't play outside unsupervised. I'm aware that not everyone wants kids in their yard or playing next to their house.

What would be the best way to encourage the kids to play elsewhere? We want to landscape, but are reluctant to as any new grass or plants will be trampled. I've thought about fencing, but this doesn't seem to stop kids (they hop the fences of our neighbors across the street regularly). I'm also concerned about damaged to our cars from being hit on a regular basis.

Any suggestions on how to handle this situation would be appreciated. Just another mom

Could you approach it from a legal standpoint ? You could politely tell the parents that you are afraid of having unsupervised kids in your yard because, if they got hurt, you could be held liable. Let them know ahead of time that you'll be asking the kids to leave whenever they are in your yard because you are not insured to handle these kinds of situations. It sounds like you otherwise like the neighbors and neighborhood so try and be as nice (but firm) as possible. If the polite request goes ignored, I would try a letter from a real estate attorney to request they quit, then start calling the police when the kids are in your yard. Hopefully it never goes that far and you sound much nicer and than me so that may be too harsh. Depending on the ages of the kids, you might get your house egged or something but who knows ? Maybe everyone will be understanding in the matter and you'll have your space back. Also, in terms of the front yard and bicycles/skateboards/etc. cutting corners on your yard, you could try a very short border fence which worked wonders for friends who were having the same problem. Good luck and I hope everything gets handled peacefully. - anon

Why not try the obvious and talk to the kids and to their parents and ask them not to play in your yard or hit your cars? -another Berkeley homeowner and parent